OFSAA Football Festival Preview (Golden Horseshoe Bowl): #CFC50 No. 11 Nelson Lords go toe-to-toe with #CFC50 No. 21 St. Marcellinus Spirit

Feature photos courtesy of the Nelson Lords

It’s tough to think of a better way to kick off day two of the festival than with a #CFC50 showdown for the Golden Horseshoe Bowl between the No. 11 Nelson Lords and the No. 21 St. Marcellinus Spirit.

The theme of the week seems to be historic firsts for many programs, and the same storyline runs parallel in this one with St. Marcellinus making their first ever trip to a bowl game. Playing out of the Peel region which has been home to plenty of good teams over the past decade, the Spirit have never been able to break the barrier into the world of bowl game glory. That of course all changed this season as St. Marcellinus powered their way through the regular season with their only loss coming against #CFC50 St. Roch, and after the defending champions were upset in the semifinals, all eyes turned towards St. Marcellinus as the eventual champions. While the pressure might have been even harder to deal with now as the favourites going into the finals, the Spirit didn’t panic en route to a convincing 33-14 win over St. Marguerite d’Youville and a place in history as the first St. Marcellinus team to ever make a bowl game.

On the other the side of the field, the story may not be as dramatic, but make no mistake that the Nelson Lords were just as hungry to get back to a bowl game. The last time they made a bowl appearance was a long five years ago after struggling to find their way out of GHAC against some of the best teams in the nation each year – but 2016 would finally be the year of the Lords.

Nelson knew they would be good with plenty of talent returning from their 2015 roster, but there was one glaring question mark that hovered around all season, and that was how would the Lords fair against #CFC50 Holy Trinity? Based off past results this was a fair question, but in hindsight, we were silly to ever wonder. In their first meeting, Nelson showed signs that they’d be hanging around until the very end this season after defeating Holy Trinity by a score of 38-7. As expected, Holy Trinity hung around as well and prepared themselves for a rematch in the league finals, but despite playing a much better game in the championship, there would be no denying the Lords who walked away with a 28-15 victory.

That is when the tough part comes for teams in the GHAC region, however, because now Nelson had to go toe-to-toe with #CFC50 Cardinal Newman for a spot at the festival. Thankfully the Lords defence were on a mission to get that done as they completely shut down Newman’s offence in a 16-13 victory, sending Nelson to their sixth bowl game in school history.

It’s impossible to put your finger on the exact reason why Nelson has been so good this season, and that is because they have so many players making huge plays across the board. Some weeks it was Will Corby, others it was Jake Mitchell, but one constant was the awareness of quarterback Jared Currie to spread the ball around. Some of Currie’s favourite targets are Quinn Pritchard and Michael Lehmann, who are two guys that the Spirit will not want to overlook, but as you can tell that will be much easier said than done with talent spread across the field from sideline to sideline.

The Lords have averaged 40.6 points per contest, but St. Marcellinus should have some confidence in their defensive abilities after allowing just 14.2 points per game this season. The Spirit forced a turnover frenzy in the ROPSSAA finals with Martin Iyambo and Bradley Blake both hauling in interceptions, and once again they will need to come up with some momentum shifting plays in order to keep the Lords off the scoreboard.

A tougher task may fall to the Spirit’s offence, however, who will be looking to slice through a Nelson defence led by two-way stalwarts Zach Ihasz and Robbie Walker. The Lords have not allowed more than 15 points in any contest this season, but they will have their hands full with one of the most underrated running backs in the country who has been the main workhorse for the Spirit all year long. Kevin Wong wastes no time introducing himself to new teams, and expect St. Marcellinus to rely heavily on his running abilities once again after another multi touchdown performance in the league finals. He won’t be able to do it all on his own, especially against a menacing defence like Nelson’s, so expect to hear the name Zaid Malik a lot with the Spirit looking to attack on multiple fronts.

Neither team will be quite familiar with their surroundings due to recent bowl history, which should make for a great clash between two #CFC50 programs that will leave it all out on the field in hopes of walking away with a banner.

Don’t be late on day two of the festival with kickoff set for 10:00am.


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